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Open letter with over 100 signatures from 11 countries opposes release of Pinochet era perpetrators of crimes against humanity

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In an extraordinary step backward a Chilean Court of Appeals granted release and sentence reductions to 17 State actors convicted of crimes against humanity perpetrated against thousands of Chilean citizens during the Pinochet dictatorship, provoking condemnation by survivors and the international human rights community. In the context of several months of relentless and brutal government repression of pro-democracy demonstrations and President Sebastián Piñera’s intransigent commitment to a failed economic model, this show of impunity sends the wrong message to the police forces who have already brutalized thousands of Chileans and undermined the rule of law. These measures violate international human rights law signed by Chile.

COHA republishes this open letter initiated by Chilean concerned citizens in Washington DC, supported by more than one hundred people from 11 different countries, against impunity in Chile.


Chilean residents in the United States and persons of all nationalities express their concern for impunity in Chile for violators of human rights

We the undersigned Chilean residents in the US and persons of all nationalities profoundly condemn the judgement of acquittal and reduction of sentences by the Court of Appeals of Santiago, for 17 violators of human rights, adjudicated for crimes against humanity committed during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Minister Juan Cristóbal Mera Muñoz, Minister Mireya López Miranda and member attorney Cristián Lepin Molina, absolved the former agents of the National Directorate of Intelligence (Dirección Nacional de Inteligencia, DINA) Pedro Espinoza, Rolf Wenderoth, Hermon Alfaro, Pedro Betterlich, Claudio Pacheco, Orlando Torrejón, Orlando Altamirano and Eusebio López. They also reduced the sentences of Ricardo Lawrence, Jorge Andrade, Juan Morales Salgado, Ciro Torré, Sergio Escalona, Juvenal Piña, Jorge Díaz, Gustavo Guerrero y Gladys Calderón to 3 years and 1 day. Pedro Espinoza was an accomplice of the notorious criminal who was the right hand man of Pinochet, Manuel Contreras. Espinoza was the chief of the Villa Grimaldi, a center of torture and forced disappearance. Espinoza was also involved in the operation called “Caravan of death” in which almost 100 persons around the country were assassinated, and he participated in the terrorist attack on Orlando Letelier in Washington DC. All of these criminals had been convicted on July 21, 2017 for 16 kidnappings and one homicide perpetrated in Villa Grimaldi.

The judges’ actions benefit state actors, functionaries of the armed forces and Carabineros police who committed crimes against humanity, including kidnappings, sexual assaults, indescribable tortures and assassinations of Chileans for their political beliefs. According to international law, such crimes constitute acts of state terrorism.

The campaign of impunity has even extended to perpetrators of human rights violations who are completing their sentences in the Punta Peuco prison. Pinochetista legislators are pressuring the Piñera government to grant those among these prisoners who are over 75 years old the benefit of house arrest, measures presently being studied with regard to the coronavirus. The characteristics of Punta Peuco prison, however, considered a place “of luxury” on account of its many benefits, comfortable rooms, and special services, does not justify the application of the same criterion used in the case of overcrowded conditions found in ordinary penitentiary centers.

These very grave deeds of the past few days imply an emotional drama, especially cruel for those family members and loved ones of the thousands of victims of violations of human rights committed by these State agents. Chile has demonstrated an enormous legal ambiguity and ongoing policy of impunity since the end of the dictatorship. These recent actions, especially the decision of the Court of Appeals, demonstrates that the application of justice in the face of serious violations of human rights continues to be an unfinished task, politicized and debilitated by certain sectors of the society which even confuse the right to defend a political ideology with the necessity to defend, above all, human life. Also, there ought to be a moral imperative to oppose state terrorism and bring to justice those who infringe against the dignity of the human personality.

With the decision by the Court, Chile is also out of compliance with international treaties and the jurisprudence of the Interamerican Court of Human Rights (Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, CIDH). The cases of Almonacid, Arellano and others v. Chile, and La Cantuta v. Perú have established unequivocally the obligation of member states to investigate and prosecute all crimes against humanity, treating them as the most serious violations of human rights. Once responsibility is established, the state, through its judicial branch, ought to apply sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the crimes. These principles of international law obligate states to avoid any measure that permits amnesty or sets aside the responsibility of the guilty. Chile appears to regress in this regard, abandoning the doctrine that the CIDH has followed for years and forgetting the purpose of these norms of international law related to human rights, laws which are designed to provide a disincentive, under any circumstances, to commit such crimes.

We call upon the Supreme Court, the government authorities, and legislators to forcefully exercise their full legal and political authority to urge Chile to fulfill its international obligations with regard to human rights and vigorously oppose these acts of impunity for crimes so serious that they have affected and continue to affect generations of citizens of our country.


  1. Abril Viscaya, Venezuela
  2. Ada Troncoso, USA
  3. Adam Kaluba, USA
  4. Adolfo Guidali, France
  5. Adriana Bolívar, Argentina
  6. Alejandra Barrueto, Chile
  7. Alejandra Montecino, Chile
  8. Alex Main, USA
  9. Alicia Bustillo, USA
  10. Alicia Soto, USA
  11. Alina Duarte, México
  12. Alma Torres-Martinez, USA
  13. Ana Laura Pereira, USA
  14. Anna Panazzolo, Brazil
  15. Anahí Arizmendi, Venezuela
  16. Andrea Rojas, USA
  17. Andrés Habella, USA
  18. Andrew Vavrunek, USA
  19. Angelica McInerney, USA
  20. Augusto Soares, Brazil
  21. Aurélio Ribeiro dos Santos, Brazil
  22. Ayla Bailey, USA
  23. Blanca Flor Bonilla, El Salvador
  24. Bonnie Fox, USA
  25. Bonnie McCrimmon, Canada
  26. Brenda Choi, USA
  27. Camila Rojas, Chile
  28. Camilo Soria, Chile
  29. Carlos Alejandro Morales Mateluna, USA
  30. Carlos Morales Mateluna, Switzerland
  31. Carmen Paz Nunez Hoffmann, USA
  32. Carolina Cucumides, USA
  33. Carter Carlson, USA
  34. Cecilia Morales, Chile
  35. Cecilia Toledo González, USA
  36. Celestino Barrera, USA
  37. Cesar Agenor Fernandes da Silva, Brazil
  38. Cheryl LaBash, USA
  39. Cindy BelloweBellowe, USA
  40. Clayton Lee, USA
  41. Cloe Soria, Chile
  42. Cristian Foerster, Chile
  43. Cristian Gamboa, USA
  44. Danny Shaw, USA
  45. Darlene Hebert, Canada
  46. David Paul, USA
  47. Demetrus Jackson, USA
  48. Deyanira Garza, USA
  49. Dianne Budd, USA
  50. Edalis Mejía, USA
  51. Elena Hildreth, USA
  52. Eliza Lopez, Brazil
  53. Evelyn González, USA
  54. Estefania Del Real, Chile
  55. Fabiana Gallardo, Chile
  56. Felipe Fredes , USA
  57. Francesca Emanuelle
  58. Frederick Mills, USA
  59. Gema Casanova, USA
  60. Gonzalo Valerio Soto, Honduras
  61. Héctor Sepúlveda, USA
  62. Ignacio Shinya, Chile
  63. Isabel Pizarro, Chile
  64. Isella Calderon, Chile
  65. Jill Clark-Gollub, USA
  66. John Moriarty, USA
  67. Jorge Consuegra, USA
  68. Jorge Pizarro, USA
  69. Jorge Ramírez, Chile
  70. Julia Stover, USA
  71. Juliana Barnet, USA
  72. Karen Morales, USA
  73. Karina Armenta, USA
  74. Katrina McBrian, USA
  75. Laura Franco, Venezuela
  76. Laura Soria, Chile
  77. Leonardo Flores, USA
  78. Leonardo Vera, USA
  79. Leslie Salgado, USA
  80. Lidia Soto, Chile
  81. Liliana Cannobbio, Chile
  82. Lilly Macier, USA
  83. Luis Soria González-Vera, Chile
  84. Márcia Cury, Brazil
  85. Marco E., USA
  86. Maria Cristina Urquieta Aranciabia, USA
  87. María Paz González, Chile
  88. Marta Pizarro, Chile
  89. Martha Allen, USA
  90. Merrill Cole, USA
  91. Michelle Ellner, USA
  92. Miriam Manresa, USA
  93. Monica Navarro, USA
  94. Morelia Reali, USA
  95. Natalie Deriu, USA
  96. Nora Pizarro, USA
  97. Pamela Alejandra Weitz, USA
  98. Pamela Cecilia Molina Toledo, USA
  99. Pamela Molina, USA
  100. Pamela Zúñiga Grandi, USA
  101. Patricia Cifuentes, Chile
  102. Patricia Edith Pizarro Toro, Chile
  103. Patricio Zamorano, USA
  104. Phoenix Oaks, USA
  105. Rebecca Ellner, USA
  106. Robinet Castillo-Zarate, USA
  107. Rodrigo López, Chile
  108. Ronald Gallardo Duarhtt, Chile
  109. Sergio Galikea, Chile
  110. Sérgio Novaes, Brazil
  111. Silvia Oliveira, Brazil
  112. Taigan Wright, USA
  113. Teresa Aybar Carbajal, USA
  114. Teri Matson, USA
  115. Timothy Brett, Canada
  116. Vanessa Asenjo, Mexico
  117. Vinicius de Rezende, Brazil
  118. Walter Gustavo Weitz Marholz, USA
  119. Yela Andarcia, México
  120. Yu-Ting Chu, USA
  121. Yvonne Mcdonald, USA
  122. Zarko Retamal Yacsich, USA


Photo credit: Museo de la Memoria, Santiago of Chile